Philanthropic entrepreneurs are helping locals rebuild an island paradise.
As well as being one of the world’s most beautiful places, Haiti is also one of its most troubled. Ever since Colombus came ashore in 1492, believing he had discovered India or Asia, Haitians have been forced to fight for their livelihoods, and for their independence.
Spanish settlers established a lucrative slave trade in the region, before the French took over, but during the French revolution of 1789-99, slaves and free people of colour overthrew their French masters and established the sovereign nation of Haiti – the first independent nation of Latin America and the Caribbean, and the only nation in the western hemisphere to have defeated 3 superpowers – the British, French, and Spanish.
Now Haitians are confronting new and powerful enemies – natural disaster, and disease.
The country has been ravaged by a cholera epidemic and a catastrophic earthquake in 2010, but thanks to philanthropic startups like SIMBI, its population of 10.6 million inhabitants are fighting back.
SIMBI is a “high quality, handcrafted accessory and fashion collection” that is recognised both for the stylish accessories it produces, using 17th Century hand-embroidery techniques perfected by native Haitians, and for its efforts transforming the lives of everyday Haitians thanks to its water purification programme.
All of SIMBI’s products are conceived, manufactured and marketed from Haiti, helping to preserve ancient traditions and share them with the rest of the world.
For every piece of SIMBI handicraft sold, money is raised to provide locals with sustainable jobs and incomes, and install water filtration systems across the country.
SIMBI was founded by Birgit Grossman Coles, and Lori Manuel, a Haitian native, in 2013.
The founders were struck by the devastating effects of the 2010 earthquake which devastated large parts of the country, causing hundreds of thousands of fatalities.
The company relies entirely on solar energy and the manufacturing facility where it produces its products has a zero-carbon footprint.
The Aqua Haiti foundation the company has founded will donate enough funds to purify 1 gallon of water per day, for every SIMBI bracelet sold, plus a portion of all sales will be donated directly to the social enterprise.
SIMBI, named after a Haitian water spirit who helps find solutions to tough problems, sells everything from clay bracelets to headbands, luxe leather products, headbands, and a range of products for men too.
So go ahead, have a browse, make a purchase, and make somebody’s day – on both sides of the Atlantic.